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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In Serbia today, a long anticipated arrest of one of the world's most wanted men. Radovan Karadzic is the former leader of the Bosnian Serbs. He's been in hiding for more than 10 years after he was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal on war crime charges, including genocide. In the early 1990's, Karadzic presided over a violent attempt to create a Serb nationalist mini-state within Bosnia. Joining us now is NPR's Tom Gjelten, who covered the Bosnian war for us back then. Now, Tom, what do we know about this arrest?

TOM GJELTEN: Well, Robert, he was arrested, apparently, in Serbia, because the announcement came from the Serbian president Boris Tadic, who said Serbian security services arrested him. The chief prosecutor of the criminal tribunal put out a statement referring to a successful operation, and he cited Serbia's action team, which he described as the unit in the National Security Council responsible for tracking fugitives. So, Robert, what NATO couldn't do for 10 years, apparently, the Serbian - the crack Serbian police did.

SIEGEL: NATO was trying for years. What, if anything has changed, here?

GJELTEN: I think that the most important thing that has changed is the political climate in Belgrade. We now have a new government there which is determined to move closer to Europe. It's a rather unstable government, but it is a government, but it is a government that is committed to better relations with Europe. This was the single biggest obstacle to improved relations in Europe. So I would say it's not surprising, or it's not a coincidence that this arrest came at that moment.

SIEGEL: It may not just be cracking the case at this moment, but that the case was - there was a desire to crack it.

GJELTEN: There was a political will to do it.

SIEGEL: Tell us a little bit about Radovan Karadzic. This man was a psychiatrist. You met him when you were covering the war.

GJELTEN: I did. I did. He was the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs. The military leader was Ratko Mladic, who is still on the loose. Radovan Karadzic was the man who - he hob-knobbed with international leaders. He was the one who represented the Serb political project. He was the one that made the argument that Serbs and Muslims could not live together. And he, as you say, he was a psychiatrist. He came from a fairly non-controversial background. But this was his moment, and he really became infamous for presiding politically over this project.

SIEGEL: He was indicted for his role in the siege of Sarajevo. What happened there?

GJELTEN: He was from Sarajevo, and Sarajevo was a very mixed city of Serbs, Muslims and Croats. And Karadzic made the argument that they all had to be separated. He presided over a siege by the remnants of the former Yugoslav army, bombarding Sarajevo. And his indictment says that he was responsible for the killing of civilians in that - or having the political responsibility for the...

SIEGEL: Then a second indictment a few months later for his role at Srebrenica.

GJELTEN: Srebrenica, which is, of course, the most infamous single act in the Bosnian War, where up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed. And that, again, was considered to be the result of the project to create an ethnically pure Bosnian Serb state. He was indicted for genocide in connection with that.

SIEGEL: You know, the State Department had offered a bounty of up to $5 million reward for somebody who would help lead to capture of Karadzic. Do we know if there's any idea if the Serbian police can qualify for such an award?

GJELTEN: That's a good question. I don't know. I presume that there were people who told the Serbian police where he was. You know, for many years, Robert, Radovan Karadzic moved around quite openly in Bosnia, later in neighboring Montenegro, and in Serbia. A lot of people knew where he was, but it wasn't enough at that point to alert the NATO forces.

SIEGEL: He goes to the Hague pretty soon?

GJELTEN: He'll go to the Hague soon. He's being sort of interrogated and identified right now through DNA testing, this kind of investigating stuff.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Tom. That's NPR's Tom Gjelten, on the arrest of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

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